Is It Safe for Dementia Patients to Eat Ice Cream?

No matter the weather, everyone loves a bit of ice cream. I know people who enjoy ice cream varieties such as frozen yogurt, sorbet, gelato, and sherbet even during freezing cold weather. But are cold beverages safe for someone with Dementia such as Alzheimer’s or Lewy body? Let’s see what research has to say.

It is common for people with Dementia to get agitated while trying to perform everyday activities. They get overwhelmed easily. They need someone— like a caregiver or a family member— to help them calm down. This is where ice cream comes into the picture. Ice cream is safe, soothing, and scrumptious. It helps them break out of the funk, and get moving again. 

Why do Dementia patients seem to love ice cream and other dairy products?

One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that someone with Dementia will love ice cream or related cold beverages. I haven’t met someone who refuses a cone of ice cream. I’m sure there are logical reasons why a cognitively impaired senior person would love ice cream, but I think it’s something that cannot be explained in plain words. 

People with Dementia find it challenging to communicate their feelings and emotions. They hardly speak about what they are feeling inside. I have tried asking this about their love for ice cream, but they either remain muted or get excited like a child. They may not ask you for it, but they accept it with pleasure.   

Here’s what I think.

The taste of ice cream takes them back to the days when they had it as a child. It is hard for them to remember their childhood days due to their memory problems, and ice cream acts as a catalyst in bringing the joyful memories back. It takes their worries away as well. 

Also, unlike other treats such as chocolates, ice cream acts quickly. It breaks the cycle of negative thoughts and takes them to a happier place. 

Everyone has their favorite flavor, hence it is important to speak to their family member (if you are a professional caregiver)  to find out what flavors they like and dislike. In my experience, nutty and fruity flavors are the most popular. But some folks also prefer naturally bitter flavors such as dark chocolate or orange. 

What does the research say about ice cream and brain health?

As of 2023, there hasn’t been any research done on this subject. No one knows how ice creams can affect the brain of someone with Dementia. Hence, it is important to consult a doctor. You can also try serving small amounts of ice cream to your loved one and see how they respond. 

Notice the changes in their mood, and changes in their physical health after having one or two scoops of ice cream. You can experiment yourself if it’s not going to affect the health of your loved one. 

Here’s some good news. All ice creams are made with dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and fresh cream. A Japanese study concludes that the consumption of fermented dairy products can have preventive effects against Dementia.

Healthy chemicals such as oleamide and dehydroergosterol prevent inflammation in the brain. The same study also says that the intake of dairy products such as cheese is safe for someone with Dementia. More research needs to be done on this subject though.

Who should avoid ice cream?

Seniors with certain health conditions, such as lactose intolerance, may need to avoid eating ice cream. In addition, those with milk allergies, who are vegan, or who have medical conditions such as celiac disease, should also avoid eating ice cream. 

Moreover, seniors trying to manage their weight or having high cholesterol levels may also choose to avoid ice cream. 

My elderly parent constantly asks for ice cream. How should I say no?

It is important to address the issue with sensitivity and understanding. Try to explain to your loved one that excessive ice cream consumption may not be good for their health.

You can suggest alternative options that they might enjoy. Offer to find a low-fat or sugar-free version of ice cream, or suggest alternative treats such as frozen fruit bars or sorbet. 

Lastly, encourage them to speak with their doctor to determine the best options for their health. Be respectful of their needs and desires.

Healthy ice cream alternatives for seniors with dementia

Healthy ice cream alternatives include:

  • Frozen bananas blended into a creamy treat
  • Yogurt and fruit sorbet
  • Coconut milk ice cream
  • Chia seed pudding with fresh fruit
  • Almond milk ice cream
  • Avocado-based ice cream
  • Frozen grapes

Can ice cream calm an elderly person down? Is it really true?

The relationship between food and emotions is a complex one, and the idea that ice cream can calm an elderly person down can be valid. Certain comfort foods, including ice cream, can trigger the release of pleasurable brain chemicals and lead to a temporary sense of happiness.

I would also like to tell you that this effect is only temporary. And it does not address the underlying causes of any emotional distress that an elderly person may be experiencing. 

Having said that, consuming excessive amounts of ice cream can have negative health effects, particularly for seniors who may have underlying medical conditions or who are more susceptible to weight gain.

Instead of relying on ice cream as a means of emotional comfort, it may be more effective to address the root causes of any emotional distress through therapy, counseling, or other forms of support. 

Engaging in physical activity, practicing mindfulness, doing kirtan kriya, and finding alternative comfort foods that are more nutritious can help improve overall well-being.

Final thoughts 

It is best to serve ice cream to someone with Dementia only when they feel agitated or angry. There’s no denying that it tastes delicious and makes your loved one happy, but it contains a lot of calories (and cholesterol too). Hence, you should use it as a therapeutic tool in certain situations. 

If they have any dietary concerns, pick a brand that does not contain the ingredients that may hurt your loved one. Generally speaking, ice creams with low calories, low fat, and sugar-free are good to go.


  1. My son, 54 has the onset of Dementia. My son’s wife, through his doctors have him on a very strict diet. No sweets, sugar and only certain flour for baking. The food that he eats has very little flavor and to me taste terrible. Do you have or can you suggest where I can find all foods that are good for him? An all suggesting would be appreciated.

  2. Hello Burt,

    I suggest you look for a “specialty food store” in your area. These stores specialize in gluten-free or low-sodium food options. You can also try farmers market, they generally have fresh, locally grown produce.

    Hope it helps.

  3. thank you for writing this. it was very well thought out and covered all the bases. My mother is 82 .was diagnosed as “early-on set” about 10 yo. memories of ages 4-70 are sharp. I can see the changes. i wonder if this is why she loves ice cream too!? She’ll only eat Non-GMO ice cream too. Figures!

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